May 19, 2012
United States Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2276
Colonel John R. Boulé II
New York District
Army Corps of Engineers
26 Federal Plaza, Room 2109
New York, New York 10278-0090
Dear Administrator Kurkul and Colonel Boulé,
We are aware that on September 16, 2011 and previously on October 1, 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) advised the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), pursuant to the consultation required under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, that reconstruction activities/operations at the East 91st Street MTS were not likely to adversely affect any listed species under NOAA's jurisdiction. On February 6th, 2012, NOAA listed the Atlantic Sturgeon population in the New York Bight as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The East River is part of the New York Bight. The East River is a tidal strait between Upper New York Bay and Long Island Sound. In addition, the Harlem River connects the East River to the Hudson River where the Atlantic Sturgeon goes to spawn.
Unlike Shortnose Sturgeon, which was the subject of the early review, Atlantic Sturgeon spend most of their lives in salt water, remaining in fresh water only as juveniles and when they return to spawn. The Atlantic Sturgeon are bottom feeders that tend to be found in dynamic mud habitats where they can use the barbels on the underside of their snouts to find food - chiefly worms, insects, crustaceans, and small fish. They prefer littoral zones, such as the location of the MTS, to deeper areas. Atlantic Sturgeon have been found in the East River. Indeed on May 24, 2011, a 7 foot specimen washed up near the Brooklyn Bridge and was dubbed the East River Monster by onlookers who were unfamiliar with the fish's scaly, somewhat prehistoric look.
The proposals for the facility at 91st Street call for a significant amount of dredging to create navigable channels for the vessels that would transport the solid municipal waste from the MTS. We are greatly concerned about the effects of this major program of dredging as NOAA has specifically listed dredging as a major threat to this vulnerable population. The potential for negative effects lasts well after the act of dredging is completed due to the alteration of the aquatic habitat. The modification of depth and the removal of aquatic vegetation can lead to the displacement of the Atlantic Sturgeon along with increasing the population's vulnerability to predation.
With the increased maritime traffic to and from the MTS, there is also an increased risk of Atlantic Sturgeon fatalities by vessel strike; another significant threat to the New York Bight Atlantic Sturgeon population as outlined by NOAA. While these incidences may seem more aberration than routine, it must be noted that NOAA reports the findings of a recent study stating regional recovery of an Atlantic Sturgeon population can be impacted by the loss of only a few female specimens. Finally, the combination of this increased maritime traffic and the nature of the cargo being transported, municipal solid waste, could degrade the water quality in the area to the detriment of the local Atlantic Sturgeon population.
At this time, we respectfully request that you re-open your review pursuant to the Endangered Species Act to evaluate the impact of the MTS on the Atlantic Sturgeon, consistent with all applicable rules and regulations. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY Member of Congress
LIZ KRUEGER State Senator
MICAH KELLNER Member of Assembly
DAN QUART Member of Assembly
DANIEL R. GARODNICK Member of City Council
JESSICA S. LAPPIN Member of City Council